Shutterstock kicked my butt

Failing at Istockphoto

Four or five years ago, i returned from a trip to Oregon with some pictures that i thought were amazing. I decided to use them to apply to be a contributor for Istockphoto. It didn’t go well at all. All three images got rejected for several reasons. They weren’t interesting enough and i’m pretty sure they named a few technical issues with them as well. Today, i look back at those images and totally agree with the review i got.

My second try – Shutterstock

So now, a few years later, i have a bunch of new images that i really like and i figured i’d try to apply to be a contributor for Shutterstock. I know they have very high standards, so i carefully picked out ten of my very best images, which is what they require for an application. I spent most of a friday evening uploading them, keywording them and setting categories on them. There was one that i thought might have a little bit too much noise to get accepted, but i thought i had a decent chance of getting seven out of en accepted, which is the requirement to become a contributor.

And the verdict is…

They got back to me within eight hours, which is pretty impressive. Seven of the images were rejected for technical reasons. I was a bit surprised and to be honest, a little bit pissed off at first. But that passed pretty quickly and i started examining their feedback. I have to say i’m incredibly impressed with the high standard of their quality control.¬† For instance, two of my images that were shot on a tripod in good light at ISO 200 were rejected because of “excessive noise, grain, artifacts and/or is poorly rasterized”. I use a Nikon D90, a model that goes back a few years, but is still considered pretty good. If a full frame camera is required, you need to sell a lot of images at 25 cents each to make up for the investment. I take lots of photos at high ISO and obvously, none of them could be accepted by Shutterstock. I perfectly agree with that. I wouldn’t want to buy images and find noise in them when i looked closer at them.

Staying clear of release document administration

I deliberately stayed away from any images with people in them, because they need a model release. The model release requirement rules out a large part of my images. But i was a little suprised that one of the rejections was for a photo from a golf course with no clubhouse or anything in it. So when i go to golf courses to take pictures in the summer mornings, i need to contact the golf club to get a property release. I’ll think about it, but i’m not sure i think it’s worth that kind of administration to maybe sell a few pictures for 25 cents each.

I’m not their guy

In summary, most of the photos i take are not suitable for selling as micro stock. All my sports photography is unusable because it’s shot at high ISO. All my street photography is unusable because there will be people and/or buildings that require me to get model releases and property releases. My pet photos can not be used because they’re often shot at high ISO. I don’t want to start shooting subjects that aren’t interesting to me just to make some money. I don’t depend on an income from my photography. I take pictures because i love it.

Anyway, i’m very sure that shooting stock photography to make a little extra money on the side must be a pretty hopeless project for me. I recently read a book by a guy who says he has about 5500 images out on 15-20 micro-stock sites and he makes $3000 a year on that. Of course this is money made without any effort once the images are up there, but seeing the effort and quality standards required makes me think this is a lot of work for relatively little money unless you find a niche where you’re very unique and there is a high demand. With so many photographers contributing, i bet such a niche would become over-saturated pretty quickly.

Whatever happens, i will use the feedback from Shutterstock to improve my photography. I hope i can keep improving and hopefully, in a few years, look back at the images i consider really good now and see evidence that i’ve brought my photography to a higher level. Thanks for the feedback, Shutterstock. I will use it wisely.

I got my foot in in two other places

Oh, i almost forgot – I applied at two other micro-stock agencies (Dreamstime and Canstockphoto) and got accepted. The images that Shutterstock rejected were all accepted there. This tells me Shutterstock has high standards and are determined to deliver high quality. Still, i’m thinking stock photography is not for me. We’ll see if i keep uploading photos to these other sites.

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